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The Grating Santorum: A Student’s Worst Nightmare

Rick Santorum was locking down the youth vote.

The man who fondly recalls nuns rapping his knuckles with rulers did some verbal knuckle-rapping of his own on Thursday with students at a forum in Concord hosted by New England College.

Not satisfied with mentioning homosexuality in the same breath as bestiality and pedophilia, as he did in 2003, Santorum tried to win over the kids by equating homosexuality with polygamy.

Even for Santorum, it was a masterpiece of antediluvian abrasiveness — slapping gays and Mormons at the same time.

When 17-year-old Rhiannon Pyle, visiting with her civics class from Newburyport, Mass., pressed Santorum on how he could believe that all men are created equal and still object to two men in love marrying, he began nonsensically frothing.

“So if everybody has the right to be happy, so if you’re not happy unless you’re married to five other people, is that O.K.?” he said, adding, “Well, what about three men?”

The grating Santorum was their worst nightmare of a bad teacher. He merely got booed; he’s lucky the kids didn’t TP his car or soap the windows.

In a campaign where W. is an unmentionable, Santorum is an unexpected revival of Bushian uncompassionate conservatism.

He got more scattered boos on Friday at a library in Keene and a private high school in Dublin. In Keene, he was asked if he would protect gay rights, since gays are “children of God” too.

“Serving in the military is not an unalienable right, it’s a privilege, you’re selected,” replied the candidate, who wants to restore “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He also called marriage “a privilege, not a right,” for the purpose is procreation.

Rick Perry baits gays because it’s good politics; Santorum sincerely means it. His political philosophy is infused with his über-Catholicism but lacks humanity.

At the Dublin event, 16-year-old Jessica Scharf asked Santorum how her handicapped brother could be cared for without help from the federal government. He replied, as The Times’s Katharine Q. Seelye reported, that he and his wife “bear the cost” of a handicapped daughter; he said family, friends, neighbors and the church could help, and that caring for someone would knit them closer. Scharf told Seelye later that such a group was not equipped to handle her brother, who has multiple handicaps.

New Hampshire’s feisty voters don’t seem as enraptured with Santorum’s rigid conservatism and sweater vests as evangelical voters in Iowa were. Many are pushing back on the wacky worldview of Senator Slash, as Santorum was once known for his vicious attacks on Bill Clinton and other Democrats.

He bashes President Obama as a European-style socialist and preaches fiscal conservatism. Yet in the Senate, he made sure dollars from the socialistic Medicare program went to Puerto Rico on behalf of a hometown firm — United Health Services — that later gave him nearly $400,000 in director’s fees and stock options.

He was among the pay-for-play Republicans who tried to strong-arm lobbyists and say that if you wanted to have influence you had to cough up campaign money.

While Karen Santorum was home-schooling their seven children in Virginia, Santorum soaked the Pennsylvania taxpayers to the tune of $100,000 by enrolling the children in a Pennsylvania cyber charter school.

The preface to Mrs. Santorum’s 2003 book of moral parables teaching children good manners was written by Joe Paterno, who warns against “a decline of civility and a coarsening of society.” And he knows how that goes.

In his 2005 book, “It Takes a Family,” Santorum goes off on “radical feminists” poisoning society: “What happened in America so that mothers and fathers who leave their children in the care of someone else — or worse yet, home alone after school between three and six in the afternoon — find themselves more affirmed by society?”

In Iowa, he tossed out a line about food stamps that NPR reported this way: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” He later told CNN that he was “pretty confident” that he didn’t say “black.” The only alternative, watching the video clip, is that he said “blah.” He doesn’t want to make blah people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money?

Santorum’s hot politics of aggrievement have competed with Mitt Romney’s cold politics of convenience. But soon Santorum will be gone and Mittens will reign as the calculating consultant type, unpersuasive in premium denim mom jeans, his hair slicked and gray, a lead in a ’50s B movie.

Santorum thinks he’s a bold color and Romney’s a pastel. But the whole Republican field seems ensconced in a black-and-white ’50s diorama. It’s like they’re running for president of Leave It to Beaverland.

As Tony Soprano told Meadow, “Out there it’s the 1990s, but in this house, it’s 1954.”


By: Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 7, 2012

January 8, 2012 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Class-Warfare Plutocrat”: Weak Man Romney Running For President

Newt Gingrich isn’t right about much. But he’s onto something about Mitt Romney’s weaknesses as the GOP candidate. Gingrich has been saying that the idea that Romney is electable is “just silly”: “I find it amazing the news media continues to say he is the most electable Republican when he can’t even break out in his own party. But the fact is that Gov. Romney in the end has a very limited appeal in a conservative party.” There are ways in which Romney is the least electable of the remaining plausible candidates. These issues, all having to do with economics (the country’s and Romney’s own), surfaced this week, and assuming he is the nominee, they’ll get plenty of air time between now and November.

On Thursday, we got the first major analysis of Romney’s tax plan, and it’s predictably reactionary. Taxes on the working poor would actually increase, says the Tax Policy Center. Households in the $50,000 and slightly above range would see a small decrease of 2.2 percent, or around $250. Households bringing in more than $1 million a year would see a decrease of 15 percent, or roughly $146,000. In some other country, this alone would be shocking and self-disqualifying. In 2012 America, sad to say, it marks Romney’s plan as slightly less extreme than those of his competitors. But the essential instinct to genuflect to the ultra-rich is intact.

In the Occupy era, Romney’s plan will be vulnerable to attack on those grounds alone. People aren’t exactly taking to the barricades demanding more tax cuts right now, least of all more giveaways to the very top earners. One poll just before Christmas asked people to rank the importance of addressing unemployment, reducing the deficit, or cutting taxes. Results, respectively: 55, 29, and 12 percent. Most people have a sense that taxes are pretty low these days, which, viewed historically, they are.

But Romney’s tax plan is most vulnerable on the deficit. The Tax Policy Center found that Romney’s tax plan would add $600 billion to the deficit in 2015. That’s a lot of cabbage; nearly half of the current deficit, which is now right just under $1.3 trillion (and projected to go under $1 trillion next year). So in other words, just as the deficit is starting to come down—an issue of great importance to swing voters, by the way—Romney is proposing a massive increase in the deficit, so the rest of us can write $146,000 checks to people who take home $1 million (not “millionaires”; people who make $1 million every single year). Obama—whose own tax plan, by the way, is estimated to reduce the deficit by around $300 billion over five years—ought to be able to destroy such a plan. The Romney people will respond, as they have to this study, with the usual lie about lower tax rates unleashing the dynamism of a newly free people and so on. It will be just as false as it was in the 2000s when the Bush people said it, and I think this time around, enough voters will be able to smell the rat.

So far, all this just makes Romney your run-of-the-mill class-warfare plutocrat. But combine it with the second Romney tax issue—his own—and I start to see the guy’s jaw turning into glass before my very eyes.

Romney will not release his tax returns. Why he won’t is a matter of speculation, but it seems a reasonable guess that he doesn’t want people to see what he’s been still making off of his earlier work at Bain Capital (remember, he’s been “unemployed” for a few years now), and he doesn’t want them to see that he’s been paying tax on this income at a rate of 15 percent rather than 35 percent. Last October, Michael Scherer of Time reported that the Romneys made somewhere between (love the size of these categories!) $6.6 million and $40 million—the vast majority of it in capital gains, which are taxed at 15 percent. A couple earning together around $100,000 in straight salary almost certainly pays a higher effective rate than the Romneys.

Then there are all of Romney’s clumsy lies about the number of jobs he created at Bain, which Greg Sargent first exposed earlier this week. Basically, Romney counted jobs gained at firms Bain reorganized long after he left the firm in 1999, but he didn’t count any jobs lost at firms Bain reorganized. I’d love to do my household budget that way, counting only the good stuff.

An ultra-rich man whose economic plan helps the ultra-rich and explodes the deficit, and who can’t be straight with the public about his own income taxes—that’s who’s leading the GOP field. He’s still probably more electable than Gingrich, or Rick Santorum, whose skeezy, Abramoff-related entanglements will soon see the light of day. But that isn’t saying much. Romney is vastly overrated by liberals as a general election foe. Sure, if the economy backslides, Romney could win, simply by not being the incumbent. But short of a new economic crisis, he’s a huge target. If Democrats want something to worry about, they can worry about the EU, or terrorism. But Mitt Romney? He may be the GOP’s only non-joke candidate, but that doesn’t mean he’s a strong one.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 7, 2012

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Romney’s Relationship With GOP Voters Is Like An Arranged Marriage

Other than the losing candidates themselves, the people unhappiest with the Iowa results must be journalists and Democrats.

Journalists for the simple and obvious reason that a fierce battle is a lot more interesting to watch, and to write about, than a triumphal march. And Democrats because, even though Mitt Romney didn’t emerge from the caucuses entirely unscathed, what he suffered was, as they used to say in old cowboy movies, “just a flesh wound.” And since Democrats know Romney is the most dangerous — arguably the only dangerous — Republican presidential candidate in the field, they would like to have seen him injured far more grievously than actually occurred. An eight-vote win isn’t much of a win (his margin of victory was even narrower than Al Gore’s in the 2000 presidential election), but no one can call it a defeat.

Perhaps the best way to think about Republican primary voters this year is to imagine them as the bride in an arranged marriage. Her parents have chosen well for her, better than she had any right to expect; she has no grounds for complaint and knows it. The groom they have found for her is responsible, decent, reliable, a good provider, and even very handsome. But he just doesn’t excite her. There’s nothing about him that makes her heart beat faster. When she contemplates a future being wedded to him, something inside her shrivels up and dies.

So in the months before the marriage she goes a little crazy. Spends her nights at the bars in a bad section of town. Lets inappropriate strangers buy her drinks, and goes home with more than a few of them. Deep in her heart, she knows her behavior isn’t merely ill advised, it’s foolhardy. These guys (and even one woman!) won’t make her happy even for a night, let alone a lifetime. They’re all wrong, and some of them are even a little nuts. But they’re dashing and dangerous and transgressive, and she’s in that heedless mood where she just doesn’t give a damn. By morning, she always realizes she’s made a dreadful mistake. But that’s desperation for you: She doesn’t want to be reasonable, she wants to rebel. And this is looking like her last chance. Of course, on some level, she’s aware she’s going to be marching down the aisle with Mr. Sensible soon enough.

For those of us watching this matrimonial crisis closely, the only question remaining prior to Iowa was whether there was time for one more folly before she came to her senses. We knew the identity of the one guy on a bar stool she hadn’t hooked up with, we just didn’t know if she’d have an opportunity to plant herself on the back of his Harley before reality set in. Well, as became evident in the last week before the Republicans caucused, the answer was yes.

As with each of her previous flings, she didn’t begin to know enough about this fellow before deciding he might be worth a tumble. Rick Santorum appears personable, boyish, and pleasant. He gives every indication of being an upright sort of person. But his politics are genuinely abhorrent, so far outside the American mainstream as to be almost Falangist. Once his views become more widely known, he would drive voters away in droves; with sufficient exposure, it’s unlikely he could carry a single state outside the deep South. The only reasons he did so well in Iowa are a) he was the last alternative still standing, and b) while he’s known to be conservative, a buzzword that makes Republicans salivate without requesting a definition, the full extent of his views aren’t well known at all, and would not survive scrutiny.

The battle isn’t quite over. Santorum hasn’t yet undergone the sort of examination that undid, in turn, Trump, Bachmann, Cain, Perry, and Gingrich. He might have time to make a little mischief in New Hampshire before that happens, and South Carolina might be congenial territory for him regardless. And he has a spirited, spiteful ally in Newt Gingrich. Gingrich feels aggrieved, and when Gingrich feels aggrieved, he gets mean. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say he gets meaner. He must know he’s going down, but he’s going to do everything he can to pull Mitt Romney down with him. Pure personal vengeance. Many of Romney’s vulnerabilities are well enough known by now to occasion no surprise, but I think we’re going to see him suffer some serious new knife wounds, front and back, during the next few debates.

Romney is going to be the Republican nominee. But he will be a damaged nominee. Which isn’t to say he will lose — it’s much too early for those kinds of predictions — but it does mean his path to victory is steeper and more tortuous than it had to be.

Two other thoughts: President Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray was, yes, an appropriate and justified exercise of executive power. But it was also, in a modest and opening-gambit sort of way, an announcement of how he is going to run for re-election this year: Like Harry Truman in 1948. His opponent will be not only Mitt Romney, but the Congressional Republican Party.

And most interestingly, I suspect Iowa may mark the turning point in the way the country views the Supreme Court’s recent, indefensible decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. It was a decision most conservatives embraced when first issued, but the mischievous and entirely foreseeable consequences of this idiotic piece of jurisprudence are now visible for all to see. The fact that the State Supreme Court of a conservative state like Montana seems to agree has to be taken as a great big fat straw in the wind.


By: Erik Tarloff, The Atlantic, January 6, 2012

January 8, 2012 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Deceive, You Believe”: Is Fox News Too Balanced?

It’s not easy being Fox News in today’s highly politicized media environment. When it says it’s “fair and balanced,” the mainstream media  sneer disbelief. When the cable news ratings leader reveals figures  proving its coverage is balanced on a specific hot-button issue, it gets  slapped for pandering to conservative dogma.

That’s a conclusion one  might reach from a first-of-its-kind study in the authoritative International  Journal of Press/Politics of how Fox, CNN, and MSNBC cover the  issue of global warming. The bottom line: Being balanced and providing  supportive and critical views of global warming is actually  biased because it gives critics a louder voice. Worse: Fox covers global  warming about twice as much as CNN and MSNBC combined, meaning those  critics get much more airtime, another sign of bias.

“Although  Fox discussed climate change most often, the tone of its coverage was  disproportionately dismissive,” says the study by four professors, two  from George Mason University, the others from Yale and American  University. They wrote, “Fox broadcasts were more likely to include  statements that challenged the scientific agreement on climate change,  undermined the reality of climate change, and questioned its human  causes.”

The new study looked at global warming stories on  the three networks in 2007-08, the peak of coverage of the issue. Of 269  stories, 182 were on Fox, 66 on CNN, and 21 on MSNBC. About 60 percent  of the Fox stories had a “dismissive” tone, while less than 20 percent  were “accepting” of global warming. Over 70 percent of those on CNN and  MSNBC accepted the global warming argument, which the study authors also  endorse. There were no “dismissive” stories on MSNBC, and just 7  percent on CNN, a proper balance, the study suggests.

The  authors also looked at the opinions of guests. Here Fox again  out-balanced the competition. Of Fox’s 149 guests, 59 believed in global  warming, 69 didn’t, with the rest someplace in the middle. Of CNN’s 53  story guests, 41 were “climate change believers” and nine were  “doubters.” On MSNBC, 11 of 20 guests were believers.

The  study acknowledges that Fox was the most balanced from the numbers  perspective, but the network still gets an F. The reason, it says, is  because viewers are influenced by what they see, and seeing more critics  of global warming makes more viewers critics. “The more often people  watched Fox News, the less accepting they were of global warming.  Conversely, frequent CNN and MSNBC viewing was associated with greater  acceptance of global warming,” the study concludes.

By: Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, January 6, 2012

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Warming, Media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking The Endorsement Game “To A Whole New Level”: Romney Endorsers Received Contributions First

Money may not be buying Mitt Romney much Republican love, but it’s going a long way toward helping him buy the next best thing: endorsements in the GOP primaries.

Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC and its affiliates states have lavished close to $1.3 million in campaign donations to federal, state and local GOP politicians, almost all since 2010. His recipients include officials in the major upcoming primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina, and in three southern Super Tuesday states where he was trounced four years ago.

In New Hampshire, a U.S. senator, a congressman, 10 state senators and three executive councilors shared $26,000 in donations from Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC in 2010 and 2011 combined. All 15 have showered Romney with endorsements leading up to Tuesday’s primary

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley came out for Romney last month – a year after his Free and Strong America PACs funneled $36,000 to the Tea Party darling’s 2010 election bid. And 19 state and Washington, D.C., lawmakers in three Super Tuesday states – Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia — are backing Romney after his PAC poured a total of $125,500 into their coffers for elections held in 2009 and 2010.

“This is as old as politics itself,” Edwin Bender, executive director of the National Institute of Money in State Politics. “He’s just taking it to a whole new level.”

Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University political scientist, said Romney’s gambit is a smart strategy for a deep-pocketed candidate. “He’s investing wisely and trying not just to run up the numbers where he’s strong, but trying to build it up where he’s weakest,” Zelizer said.

Nowhere has Romney spent as heavily – and harvested the rewards – as in Tuesday’s must-win state of New Hampshire. Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC and its Granite State affiliate invested some $53,000 to help local officials win races, and another  $13,000 for congressional and Senate candidates.

New Hampshire state Sen. Sharon Carson said in a press release that she took the time to examine the “backgrounds and qualifications of each of the candidates” running for president before she backed Romney on Dec. 27. She received $1,000 from Romney’s federal Free and Strong America PAC for her winning 2010 reelection bid.

Kelly Ayotte – a Tea Party Republican who won a U.S. Senate seat – received $5,000 from Romney’s PAC in 2010 for her winning bid and $2,500 from the PAC in 2011, according to federal records. She endorsed Romney in November.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass also endorsed Romney in November. He received  $3,500 from Romney’s PAC in 2010 and and $2,000 2011 from Romney’s PAC. State Senate President Peter Bragdon endorsed Romney Dec. 1. He received $1,000 from Romney’s Free and Strong America / New Hampshire PAC on Oct. 4, 2010.

Dante Scala, a University of New Hampshire political scientist, said Romney needs 35 to 40 percent of the vote to be viewed as the winner.  Romney’s strategy of snatching up local endorsements has resonated with Granite State residents, and that’s reflected in the widening gap in the polls.

“They want to suck all the oxygen out of the primary,” Scala said. “And so far they’ve succeeded.”

After his crushing 2008 campaign defeat, Romney created the Free and Strong America leadership PAC to contribute to local, state and federal officials’ campaigns.

According to the Federal Election Commission and, the PAC donated $890,299 to some 167 congressional and Senate candidates in 2010, while distributing another $404,226 in 2010 to state and local candidates, according to state campaign finance records collected by

If Romney’s been chided for being too moderate, he’s shown little moderation when it comes to the mother’s milk of politics: money.

“Clearly, the one thing Mitt Romney has to his advantage is money, and the best way to use it in the early stages is to spread it around to build up a political organization,” said Michael Dennehy an unaligned New Hampshire GOP operative. “Now, it appears he’s reaping the benefits.”

Romney is already earning dividends in states where he suffered embarrassing setbacks in 2008. In South Carolina, for example, Romney placed a distant third behind Mike Huckabee and John McCain.

Romney trumpeted the backing of Haley in December. The pair are touring South Carolina Friday and New Hampshire this weekend. His Free and Strong America PAC raised a lofty $36,000 for her in 2010.

Romney also is bolstering his support in three March 6 Super Tuesday states where his showing was dismal in 2008.

In Georgia, where Romney finished a distant third behind Huckabee and McCain, Free and Strong spent $36,000 in 2010 on 24 state candidates. So far, 11 have endorsed Romney ahead of the primary. Another nine congressmen received $25,052 in 2010 from the PAC, and four are backing Romney.

In Tennessee, another Super Tuesday state where Romney also finished third, Romney netted the backing of U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Jimmy Duncan. They were among GOP state and federal Tennessee candidates who split $17,500 from Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC in 2010.

In 2008, Romney placed fourth behind McCain, Huckabee and Ron Paul in Virginia. But this year he snagged the backing of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Rep. Barbara Comstock, who were among the recipients of some $27,500 donated by the Free and Strong America PAC.

So far, the spending has paid off not just in endorsements but in the development of a campaign infrastructure, experts said. This will help Romney against less well-funded rivals when the primaries are in several states simultaneously and particularly on Super Tuesday, when surrogates are vital in many places at once.

But there’s a risk, Zelizer warned, that over-spending could get Romney painted as an out-of-touch elitist trying to buy his delegates.

“He doesn’t want this to backfire and look like he has so much money, he’s buying an election, he’s buying a nomination,” Zelizer said.

There’s also controversy. For while the practice of contributing to campaigns in exchange for endorsements isn’t new, the New Hampshire and Alabama Democratic Parties have filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission. They charge that the Free and Strong PACS coordinate with the state affiliates to circumvent federal and state campaign laws. The PACs have denied any wrongdoing.

Dennehy, the GOP operative, said that rather than complain, others should wonder why they’re not exerting their political muscle as effectively as Romney.

“He’s the only one who donated a sizable amount of money to dozens of elected officials,” Dennehy added. “Let’s face it. When no one else gives you money, you don’t think long and hard who’ll you’ll give your endorsement to.”


By: Edward Mason, Salon, January 7, 2012

January 8, 2012 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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